giving thanks and a japanese house part i

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends! I'm about to head out of town but I wanted to share the exterior of a house that I really love. This is a typical family style house in this part of Japan. Here's the view from the street. I just love those Japanese maples.


 I think you might be surprised by how spacious it is. Japan, outside of Tokyo and other large urban centers, actually has very comfortable living spaces - although personally we're not in such a large house. To be sure, the tiny ones exist here, too.

This one belongs to a good friend who was kind enough to allow me to snoop around. I'm posting the exterior photos today and will have more detail and interior photos when I return from our trip!

I love the attention to detail in the garden. When you look at the entire little garden, you think, "what chaos" but in each corner is actually a well ordered vignette and then you step back and appreciate how the overall feel is to simulate nature as closely as possible.

Except the cafe lights, those aren't natural...

Even the steps to the sliding glass doors seem built into the landscape as if they've always been there. Also, I want to point out that two main rooms have these sliding glass doors that completely open allow the living space to flow into the garden.

Enjoy your day of feasting and friends (but not feasting on friends, unless your friends are fowl).

the sendai tansu

Friday, November 1, 2013

This is a story about learning to be a parent. It is also a story about furniture. Last week a friend introduced me to a local antiques dealer who happened to have a very large shop of beautiful pieces. He had several Meiji era tansu chests.  In trying to pick a piece, I have learned so much about tansu chests. Since we are in Northern Japan, we are near Sendai. Sendai  is a famous style of tansu. They're known for their heavy and intricate ironwork. source

I picked out a merchant's chest in this style. You can buy your own here if you're in the States. source

It was gorgeous, with original working locks, key and intricate metalwork. I'm told the blossoms are plum blossoms but in my mind they look a bit like lotus blooms. I had my husband and a friend transport it home; they were good sports because these things are not light. source

As I was cleaning it that night I noticed the antique ironwork had many sharp points, especially on the drawer-front corner pieces. I decided it had to go; it wasn't baby safe at all. So, so beautiful, but not baby-friendly. I went back with another Japanese friend and we picked out a possible replacement. I'll post pictures when it is in place. And in case you are interested, this is what a Sendai Tansu looks like in place in a traditional style home. Sorry I couldn't find a bigger image online. source

Lesson learned - this was my first furniture purchase since my daughter was born. I think the dealer thought I was a bit nuts when I went to pat down every single piece of furniture in his inventory... When I went back the dealer also asked, "what style does your husband like?" I told him the lightest since we have to walk up stairs to our apartment. Looking at another chest he told me, "No, your husband will not like this one. It is too heavy." source

More on how Sendai Tansu Chests are made: